A 'Groovy' Day of Service

September 12, 2022

A 'Groovy' Day of Service

Mitzvah Day returned September 11, 2022, for a day of service in the Atlanta community, and our volunteers showcased their passion for giving back. This day featured several community-wide projects for both young professionals and families with teens and children, with additional support from some caring partners such as Repair The World, Moishe House, NextGen, Honeymoon Israel, PJ Library, and Temple Sinai. The line-up of activities left many inspired and feeling good about their participation.

"Watching Mitzvah Day come alive through photos, projects, and interactions with our volunteers, the day felt so meaningful and truly reminded us why we do this work," said Sarah Bernstein, PAL & Young Professionals Program Manager.

Families with young children (5-12) gathered at the JF&CS campus to participate in three separate projects: making Rosh Hashanah gift bags, assembling "Soup in a Jar," and helping sort and stock food in the food pantry. Each came with an educational element from PJ Library or Repair the World for the younger mitzvah-makers — either in the form of storybook reading or some question-and-answering time — to help give meaning and purpose to the projects. Gabe Fleming, our Food Pantry Manager, taught the participating children about the importance of eating right and getting enough sleep to do their best at school, along with reminding them of the still prevalent food insecurities of many other children in the community.

Laura Holtzclaw, Family Volunteer Committee member, stated, “It was such a pleasure working on Mitzvah Day and watching families volunteer at JF&CS. Watching my own children restock the food pantry was a valuable lesson in helping others in our community”.

“I learned to give to someone when they don’t have enough food,” said Jonah Cohen (age 7) while packing soup in a jar with mom, Cobi.

"So many families shared how inspired they were by the work we do at the Pantry and wanted to know how they can continue to help," said Megan Koziel, LMSW, Volunteer Services Coordinator.

At the same time, adult volunteers — led by Lauren Harris and Rick Litzky — harvested the remaining summer vegetables and herbs from the Giving Garden, and then prepped and planted new winter crops acquired through our partnership with Love is Love Farm.

"Lauren also did wonderful work with our volunteers in the Giving Garden, planting for the Fall and engaging many new families. I’m so glad the garden was open for families to wander in and help when their projects were finished," added Megan.

The productive afternoon for the families was completed by some tasty ice treats from our friends at Kona Ice.

Elsewhere, the young professional volunteers and families with teens dispersed throughout the Atlanta community to tackle some worthwhile projects. At two area community food producers — the Campbellton Community Garden and the Doghead Farm, one of Concrete Jungle's small, urban farms in Southwest Atlanta — volunteers helped weed, mulch, and harvest the garden plants. Chastain Park and Murphey-Candler Park received some love and attention in the way of trash pickup and pulling weeds. Three-course meals were assembled for the seven homes in the Zimmerman-Horowitz Independent Living Program. Additionally, nearly 30 volunteers spent productive time with our friends at the Atlanta Community Food Bank sorting and packaging food for those in need. Afterwards, and according to a long-standing tradition, many of the young professionals (21+ years old) gathered to celebrate and network at a Happy Hour event. Many tales of "groovy" mitzvahs were regaled at Steady Hand Beer Co. that evening.

“Today was about giving back to the Atlanta community. It was a blast working alongside other young adult volunteers," said Ethan Fialkow, a long-time supporter of JF&CS Young Professional events and one of the chairs for Havinagala 2023. "I am excited to get more involved in our community. There’s a lot of great work to be done.”

Additionally this year, as an added mitzvah opportunity for those parents seeking something to do with their children a little closer to home, LemonAid for Ukraine was created as a fundraising opportunity for AURA (Atlanta Ukrainian Evacuee Relief Assistance). A few families chose this fun venture and created lemonade stands that not only refreshed passerby's for small donations, but also educated the patrons (and children) on JF&CS' relief assistance for the Ukrainian evacuees in the Atlanta area.

Vera Golden, Chief Program Officer of JF&CS, was on-hand to participate and support the family projects at the Dunwoody campus.

"I was so proud to participate and talk with the families about the good works at JF&CS. Many were new and were so happy they participated," said Vera. "I was impressed by the variety and depth of activities. This work was clearly meaningful, and the parents and kids were clearly inspired to participate!"